By Terri Schlichenmeyer
“The Particulars of Peter”
by Kelly Conaboy
c.2020, Grand Central, $27, 256 pages
Your dog does not need a new laptop.
He has no use for a tablet or a new mouse, unless it’s squeaky. He doesn’t want the latest smartphone, either, but now, dancing classes and sports lessons? Yeah, you’ll have to ask what he thinks about them. As in “The Particulars of Peter” by Kelly Conaboy, those extras might make him happy.
While job loss sometimes causes angst for the newly-unemployed, Kelly Conaboy saw it as a chance for some “space.” It gave her the opportunity to explore her Brooklyn neighborhood more, and to volunteer with a local animal shelter and a New York rescue group. Walking and playing with homeless dogs seemed like a good deed and she thought fostering a dog might be fun. Adopting one was a distant idea.
And so, of course, she adopted a dog.
It almost didn’t happen; she was told that if she fostered, she couldn’t adopt but she was so over-the-moon in love with a little black dog named Peter Parker that the shelter bent the rules. Secretly, really, she felt like he was hers before it was official, and Peter became the center and reason for Conaboy’s life. She needed to know what made him happy.
Peter, she thought, might first enjoy Woofstock, a dog festival in Toronto, Canada. It was not what Conaboy expected; Peter loved the festival’s off-leash park best. She wondered then if he might like participating in agility, which Peter excelled at but Conaboy couldn’t seem to get the hang of it.
She bought Peter all sorts of gifts – mostly things he didn’t want or need, such as a $60 hand-knit sweater that he hated – and she learned to use a remote camera to check in on him very, very often. She asked around to find out if it was safe for him to sleep in her bed (as if she wasn’t going to let him!) And even though he’ll never become a dancer, she says, “I still love his sunny, funny face.”
As a dog devotee, you’ll agree that having a pup in your life is a lot of fun. And really, you can’t imagine life without your Puppers. He makes you soft, he makes you smile, he makes you laugh – and so will “The Particulars of Peter.”
With the kind of gut-deep devotion that you expect, canine-to-human, author Kelly Conaboy flips the script as she writes lovingly about her boy and her need to know everything about him. She tries all kinds of doggish things to do that: clothing, activities, psychics and toys to see if they could possibly produce Dog Nirvana, proving that Peter is patient and Conaboy is willing to be profanely, but perfectly, endearingly silly. Indeed, this slice-of-life tail tale has all the earnestness of a new, clumsy, adorable puppy, minus the floppy ears.
That should hold the same appeal to you, Dog Lover, as a squeaky ball does to a Toy Hound. “The Particulars of Peter” will make you yip with pleasure; missing it just doesn’t compute.